Countless

Countless

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bloomsbury

Synopsis:

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.

Thoughts:

I find books that centre around mental health really intriguing, so I was eager to get to reading Countless. I thought Countless was an incredibly established debut novel. I couldn’t put it down!

Countless is about Hedda, our main character, who suffers from anorexia. Pretty much from the offset, we find out that Hedda is pregnant. We experience Hedda’s battle with what to do about pregnancy. Hedda decides to keep the baby, but realises that she’ll have to start eating to keep the baby healthy.

Countless isn’t necessarily an easy book to read, but I think it’s an important one. Karen Gregory’s writing really made me sympathise with Hedda. I wanted her to pull through and get better both for her baby and herself. I liked that it wasn’t easy for Hedda. I felt like this made the book incredibly realistic. A person suffering from anorexia doesn’t get better overnight. It’s a battle.

I think that Hedda is a very well written character. I felt that she developed so much throughout the course of the story. She was stubborn and strong-willed, but at the same time determined to do right by her child. The only thing that really bugged me about Hedda was her mother! I understand that it must be incredibly hard to have a child that suffers from anorexia, but her mother’s attitude towards Hedda frustrated me on more than one occasion!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it’s such an important read.  I thought that the representation of mental illness was outstanding. It is a painful, emotional but incredibly sensitive read.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut with some strong character development!

The Half Life Of Molly Pierce

The Half Life of Molly Pierce

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Luna!

Synopsis:

You take it for granted. Waking up. Going to school, talking to your friends. Watching a show on television or reading a book or going out to lunch.

You take for granted going to sleep at night, getting up the next day, and remembering everything that happened to you before you closed your eyes.

You live and you remember.

Me, I live and I forget.

But now—now I am remembering.

For all of her seventeen years, Molly feels like she’s missed bits and pieces of her life. Now, she’s figuring out why. Now, she’s remembering her own secrets. And in doing so, Molly uncovers the separate life she seems to have led…and the love that she can’t let go.

The Half Life of Molly Pierce is a suspenseful, evocative psychological mystery about uncovering the secrets of our pasts, facing the unknowns of our futures, and accepting our whole selves

Thoughts:

I borrowed this book from Luna over at Luna’s Little Library ages ago and have only just got around to reading it. I had heard mixed reviews about it, but like always, I was willing to give it a go. What I will say is that it can be slightly confusing but it’s really good at the same time- so stick with it.

The story centres around Molly who has regular blackouts. She has huge gaps of time missing from her life. Everyone around her is being cagey and Molly doesn’t know who to turn to.I was so intrigued by this story. I wanted to know what was going on with Molly. I can’t imagine feeling like you’re missing chunks of your life.

I found the writing to be incredibly gripping but I can imagine that it might frustrate others. I personally couldn’t put the book down. I was desperate to find out what on earth was going on. I thought Katrina Leno cleverly pieced everything together. It was an interesting concept that I don’t want to spoil!

Molly is easy to like and I wanted everything to turn out well. She’s a complex character with issues and I always like to read about someone who struggles but is so determined to come out of the other side. This is so true for Molly!

If you’re looking for a book with resolution then this isn’t a book for you. There are some unanswered questions and some plot holes, but all in all I thought it was a fantastic read. I shall certainly be reading more from this author!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic, if confusing read!

Talking About ‘Mad Girl’ with Bibliobeth

Mad Girl

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Bryony Gordon has OCD.

It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty.

A hugely successful columnist for the Telegraph, a bestselling author, and a happily married mother of an adorable daughter, Bryony has managed to laugh and live well while simultaneously grappling with her illness. Now it’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humor, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

Mad Girl is a shocking, funny, unpredictable, heart-wrenching, raw and jaw-droppingly truthful celebration of life with mental illness.

CHRISSI: What do you make of the cover, its subtitle and the title? I find it interesting that this particular cover is yellow!

BETH: Well, I had to actually pick your brain on this one as you had a lot more insights than me, haha! So the title and subtitle is Mad Girl – A Happy Life With A Mixed-Up Mind and is bright yellow. The colour yellow is notoriously quite a cheery and happy cover which is ironic considering the subject matter, a woman talking about her OCD, depression and other mental health issues. The cover immediately attracted me because of the bright cover and the suggestion that although OCD and depression are far from a barrel of laughs (I should know!) the author would take us on a journey with some dark points but some light, funny moments along the way. Mental health is not funny on any level but making light of certain experiences can give other people the bravery to face their own demons and be better equipped to deal with their problems. It certainly felt that way to me and I got a lot out of this book.

BETH: How did you feel that anxiety and depression was portrayed in Bryony’s story?

CHRISSI: Hmm… good question. I liked how there were some lighter, funnier moments within the story. I think that Bryony Gordon mixed humour in really well. But I also appreciated the moments where there were darker points to her story. It’s not sunshine and showers and it’s certainly not something to be laughed at, but in making some light jokes on the situation, Bryony is showing the reader that she’s human too and is going through a constant battle. I know for many sufferers, if not all, mental illness will always be present. It’s how you battle it that matters/

CHRISSI: Mad Girl talks about some difficult issues. Discuss how Bryony Gordon mixes humour with her descriptions of darker emotions and situations.

BETH: As I rambled on about in my previous answer (maybe I should start reading questions ahead of typing?!) Bryony deals with some very difficult issues in her book. There are eating disorders, emotional abuse, addiction… to name a few. However, it never felt too much as there was always a note of humour to make even the darker situations easier to read and experience. I felt like I had scarily so much in common with Bryony and I tend to use humour as a defence mechanism myself to deal with horrible stuff. It just made me warm to her more to be perfectly honest.

BETH: Mad Girl is described as a celebration of life with mental illness. Do you think this came across in the author’s writing?

CHRISSI: I do feel like Mad Girl does celebrate Bryony’s life with a mental illness. Despite everything that Bryony goes through, she still comes across as someone that’s enjoying her life in the main part and is desperate to not let the mental illness dictate how she lives her life. That’s inspiring!

CHRISSI: Was the humour ever too much?

BETH: For me personally, no it wasn’t. I think some of the things she talked about, especially when she talked about her first serious relationship could have really got to me and put me back into quite a dark place. However, when I felt close to feeling that way, I felt the situation in my head was defused by a hilarious line that made me smile (or laugh out loud…sorry fellow train passengers!) that cheered me up and got me out of my own head again. Without that I think it would have been too much.

BETH: You’re not normally a fan of non-fiction. How much did you enjoy this book compared to other non-fiction you’ve read?

CHRISSI: Indeed, I’m not a fan of non-fiction. However, I enjoy reading non-fiction books when they centre around a subject I’m interested in or a subject close to my heart, which in this case, is Mad Girl. I am a ‘mad girl.’ There’s an awful lot I could relate to in this book, so it didn’t feel like I was being bogged down with information. It felt like I was chatting to a friend.

CHRISSI: What do you feel you have gained from reading this book?

BETH: The knowledge that I’m not the only weirdo in the village?! No, seriously I loved reading about Bryony’s life and as I mentioned before, felt I had an awful lot in common with her. You look at other people and the success they’ve had, especially if they’ve had a lot to deal with in their past and present (and probably future) and I’m in awe of what she’s achieved. It makes me hopeful for my own future. I also think it’s so so important to talk about mental health issues and your thoughts and feelings out there so people can realise they are definitely not on their own.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I enjoyed her writing style and humour!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

Thoughts:

Furiously Happy had been doing the rounds on the blogosphere for a while and I was intrigued. I decided to pick up a copy and read it as soon as I could. I always feel slightly iffy going into reading a book that I know is about mental health. I’ve had a long term battle with anxiety and often feel books don’t represent it as well as they could. So what better than a memoir/non fiction book? Yes. Furiously Happy is fantastic. It’s funny. I really appreciate that. Anxiety isn’t always doom and gloom and there are definitely funny things that have happened to me due to my anxiety that I may not feel like laughing at during the time, but often look back and laugh or roll my eyes.

I was really impressed with how Jenny Lawson wrote about mental illness. She really portrays her anxieties wonderfully. I imagine that people that haven’t experienced it themselves or experienced a close family member with anxiety might think her thoughts and stories are far fetched. However, Jenny makes each and every one of her stories relatable, especially to those with a similar mindset. There may be a little bit of hyperbole but I think that makes it even more believable.

I don’t want to spoil this book too much. I just implore you to read it. It is a random book. It is a little strange. It is a little weird, but it’s a good weird. I promise.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

A fantastic read about mental illness!

Beautiful Broken Things

Beautiful Broken Things

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

I was brave
She was reckless
We were trouble

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

Thoughts:

I was really intrigued when I started to see this book around the blogosphere. After reading the synopsis I wanted to get to the book ASAP and I’m so pleased I finally did. I raced through this book, eager to find out what was going to happen to the characters. It’s a wonderful book about friendship. I found it entirely relatable.

Beautiful Broken Things centres around Caddy and Rosie who have been best friends for years despite attending different schools. Suzanne comes along and begins to become closer to Rosie. Caddy is immediately jealous. Suzanne is interesting, outgoing and beautiful. Caddy later finds out something about Suzanne’s life which makes Caddy look at her in a completely different light. Caddy begins to become closer to Suzanne who makes her feel less ‘boring’ than she did before. Caddy starts to take risks and as a reader we begin to see Caddy change.

Caddy is an interesting character. I really wanted to like her, but if I’m entirely honest, she grated on me after a while. Caddy appears to have an easy life attending a good, private school. Her parents care for her, she has great friends but still she’s not content with her life. She wants something significant to happen to her because she feels she’s not really being. That’s relatable, but for some reason her attitude frustrated me. So many people go through the same struggles and have a worse home life but she came across as very woe-is-me. I really liked Rosie. She was fiesty. I thought Suzanne was a fascinating character. I wanted to know more about her from the start. It’s clear that she’s struggling with some mental health issues. I wonder if I would have appreciated this book even more if it was written from Suzanne’s point of view.

Beautiful Broken Things can be intense to read at times. Female friendships can be so intense at times and coupled with Suzanne’s struggles, it doesn’t make for light reading. However, the writing style is incredibly easy to read and as I mentioned, it didn’t take me long to tear through the book.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A well-written story of friendship. Full of drama!

Nothing Tastes As Good

Nothing Tastes As Good

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Hot Key Books

Synopsis:

What happens when you give in to the voices in your head?

Annabel is dead. And she’s not happy about it. Despite having strived to be ‘lighter than air’ back when she was alive, the consequences of that yearning haven’t quite sunk in yet.

Julia Jacobs is fat. Which Annabel immediately notices when she’s assigned as Julia’s ghostly helper (don’t even think about calling her a guardian angel). And as her helper, Julia’s problem seems pretty obvious to Annabel. Fat = problem = unhappy. Sorted.

Thoughts: 

I first heard about this book from one of my favourite author’s Louise O’Neill. It sounded so intriguing. It’s about Annabel, who has died after suffering from heart failure due to anorexia. Annabel is assigned to Julia Jacobs to help her out. To Annabel, Julia’s problem is pretty obvious. Julia is fat. To make her happy, Annabel believes that she has to encourage Julia to lose weight.

This book is pretty raw. Eating disorders are explored through Annabel’s afterlife and Claire Hennessey really doesn’t hold back. I didn’t really understand from the beginning what Annabel’s purpose was. Annabel is determined to ‘help’ Julia with her weight. However, Annabel finds through Julia she begins to discover herself. Annabel discovers that there are so many reasons why people can have issues with food. Julia also learns a lot through the story. She explores her own issues with food and learns to accept what makes her want to overeat.

I definitely think this book should come with a little warning. It’s certainly an intense read and if you don’t feel strong enough to read it, then I wouldn’t recommend it. That said, this book is incredibly unique, powerful and well written. It is one that I believe will divide opinion. It takes a little while to get used to, but it certainly is one of the most unique books that I’ve read this year. I’d definitely read more from Claire Hennessy.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A wonderful YA debut. This book is unique.

Highly Illogical Behaviour

Highly Illogical Behavior

How did I get it?:
Received from Faber- many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Solomon.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

Thoughts:

Urgh. I don’t even know where to begin with this book. That’s a good urgh, by the way. This book is absolutely stunning. I first heard about this book at a Faber event. I immediately felt like I needed to read it, but at the same time I was nervous. I always get really nervous about reading books around mental health. Firstly, because I have experience with suffering from mental illness and secondly because sometimes I’ve read about it in ways which didn’t feel true or realistic. I needn’t have worried. John Corey Whaley gets it.

Highly Illogical Behaviour centres around Soloman who is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house for three years after suffering dehabilitating panic attacks. No-one seems to understand that he’s fine by himself. His parents are worried, of course, but are supportive of Soloman and are desperate for him to get better. Lisa, meanwhile, is desperate to get out of her hometown and get into a college. She will get a scholarship to the course she wants if she can write an essay about an experience with mental illness. Uh-oh, I’m sure you can see where it’s going. Lisa recalls Soloman’s big public panic attack and is determined to help him get back outside again. Lisa begins to build a friendship with Soloman. She even manages to introduce him to her boyfriend, Clark. Solomon appears to be making progress, until he finds out about the admission essay…

Immediately I enjoyed how supportive Soloman’s parents are. They encourage him to try to go outside, they encourage him to make friends, but never do they scream or get frustrated with him. They allow Soloman to be Soloman and that melted my heart. I also like how agorophobia and anxiety was approached. It wasn’t ridiculous or blown out of proportion. Soloman isn’t magically ‘cured’. It’s real, realistic and honest.

I absolutely adored the writing style. It’s so easy to devour. I just lapped up the words and let them sink in. There are some truly beautiful moments of acceptance. Just…… urgh!<3 ❤

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

Hands down my favourite book of 2016 so far! It’ll be hard to beat this one!